Stuffed Christophene

by abigail on December 14, 2009

Stuffed Christophene

Stuffed Christophene

I call it christophene.  But you can also call it christophine, mirliton, chayote, choko, chocho, chuchu, chow-chow, alligator pear, vegetable pear, sayote, tayota, Madeira marrow or xuxu.  I’m sure there are a few I’m missing.  If there’s ever an award for the vegetable with the most names, christophene is a sure contender.

Christophene is a gourd native to Central America but it can now be found in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, U.S. and, of course, the Caribbean.  It’s not difficult to grow but be warned - christophene is an aggressive plant that makes kudzu look lazy.  It has a very mild flavor (some might say bland) that is sometimes compared to cucumber or zucchini.  Its mildness makes it versatile and it can be stuffed and roasted, added to soups and stews, baked in casseroles and gratins, or served raw in salads.

Christophene

Christophene

There are several varieties of christophene and you might find them to be light green, slightly golden yellow or almost white.  They’re all the same and can be used interchangeably.  It’s worth noting that christophene contains a very sticky sap that can be hard to wash off your hands. Parboiling the squash before cutting into it or peeling it will neutralize the sap. If you’re serving it raw, peel it under cool running water and rinse it well to remove the sap.

My introduction to the vegetable was a christophene au gratin prepared by Christiana, a superb cook who worked for our friend, Alice Bagshaw, in St. Lucia.  I’m still working on my au gratin recipe but this stuffed christophene is one of Audrey’s favorites.

Stuffed Christophene

This is a pretty flexible preparation and I can see lots of substitutions you could make.  Try switching the chicken for shrimp, crab, lobster, ground pork or even leftover roast chicken, pork or lamb.  Or you could leave out the meat entirely for a vegetarian version.

4 medium christophene
1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning
2 tablespoons butter
1 small onion, peeled and diced
1/4 cup diced green bell pepper
1 stalk celery, diced
1 hot pepper, seeded and minced OR 1/2 teaspoon cayenne (optional)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, chopped into 1/2″ dice
1/4 cup diced smoked ham
1/2 cup fresh soft breadcrumbs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
Grated Parmesan cheese and chopped parsley for garnish

Put the christophene and Cajun seasoning in a saucepan and add water to cover.  Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down to a quick simmer and boil until the christophene are tender but not mushy, about 30-45 minutes.  Drain and let cool.

Boiled and halved

Boiled and halved (the seed is edible too)

Preheat the oven to 350°.

Cut the christophene in half lengthwise.  Remove the seeds (and nibble on them if you want…they’re very soft and some people think the seeds are the best part).

Cooked and chopped christophene

Cooked and chopped christophene

Remove the flesh from the christophene leaving a shell about 1/4-inch thick (I use a melon baller but you could use a spoon too).  Don’t pierce the skins.  Chop the pulp coarsely and set it aside.  Reserve the shells separately.

Christophene shells

Christophene shells

Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the onions, bell pepper, celery and optional hot pepper and gently sauté until they are soft and just start to color (but don’t let them brown).  Add the garlic and sauté for another minute.  Then add the chicken and salt and cook until the chicken is just cooked through.  Add the reserved chopped christophene, ham, breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese and fresh parsley.  Remove from the heat.

Stuffing mixture

Stuffing mixture

Stuff the cooked mixture into the christophene shells.  (NOTE:  You can make the recipe to this point up to 4 hours in advance and refrigerate the stuffed christophene.  Take them out of the refrigerator about 20 minutes before baking so they’re not cold when they go in the oven.)

Bake until the tops are nicely browned, about 30 minutes.  Garnish with a little grated Parmesan and chopped parsley and serve immediately.  Serves 4 if a serving size is two halves and 8 if a serving size is one half.  One half is plenty for me, Bones and Audrey eat two halves each.

Stuffed and ready to bake

Stuffed and ready to bake

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{ 10 comments }

1 pierre December 14, 2009 at 9:29 am

Hi Abigail
I love chritophine (with a “i” in french) and we start to have some here in France ; thanks for the recipe with exoctic products which are quite rare in blogs !
your blogs make me travel thanks !
I am based in Paris France and if you like inventive french food come and see my blog you are very welcome !cheers Pierre

2 abigail December 14, 2009 at 10:12 pm

Merci Pierre! I love France and French food and will check out your blog.

Thanks for visiting.

Cheers,
Abigail

3 Amy December 14, 2009 at 10:19 am

This sounds great! I remember the au gratin and it was great, so I can’t wait for that recipe.

I served your salmon pate and Nelson’s Blood at our Christmas party this weekend and both were big hits. Keep the recipes coming!

4 abigail December 14, 2009 at 10:14 pm

Thanks Amy! So glad to hear the recipes worked for you.

5 Ted December 14, 2009 at 5:48 pm

I agree with Pierre (and Amy – your stuff was snarfed up!) but love the exotics. It sure looks delicious! I’ve never seen one and only heard of a few of the names… but I would prefer wildly prolific easily edible plants to the choke of kudzu. By the way do they have kudzu in the BVI? Any recipes? I’ve always heard it really is edible somehow.

6 abigail December 14, 2009 at 10:13 pm

No kudzu here Ted. I’ve heard you can make salad with it. It would be useful if you could cook it like collards or something useful since there’s so much of it.

7 Deanne December 12, 2010 at 10:55 pm

Does anyone know if Christophene and Caribbean Pumpkin are available in the BVI during December?

8 abigail December 13, 2010 at 9:38 am

Deanne – You should be able to get both. I saw pumpkin at Rite Way last week and christophene should be there too, though I haven’t specifically looked for it.

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